BACKGROUND AIMS: Celiac disease is caused by a dysregulated immune response toward dietary gluten, whose only treatment is a lifelong gluten-free diet. We investigated the effects of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) on gliadin-specific T cells, which are known to induce intestinal lesions, in view of a possible use as new therapy. METHODS: Bone marrow-derived MSCs and gliadin-specific T-cell lines were obtained from allogeneic donors and mucosal specimens of celiac patients, respectively. The immunosuppressant effect of MSCs was evaluated in terms of proliferative response and interferon (IFN)-γ production upon gliadin stimulation of long-term T-cell lines; the immunomodulant effect was assessed in terms of apoptotic rate, immunophenotype and cytokine profile of short-term T-cell lines generated in the presence of MSCs. Different MSC:T-cell ratios were applied, and statistics were performed as appropriate. RESULTS: MSCs inhibited both proliferative response and IFN-γ production of long-term T-cell lines in a dose-dependent manner while limiting the expansion of short-term T-cell lines by increasing the apoptotic rate. Moreover, a reduction of the CD4(+) population and expansion of the regulatory FoxP3+ subset were found in T-cell lines cultured with MSCs, in which a significant decrease of interleukin (IL)-21, IFN-γ and IL-10 paralleled by an upregulation of transforming growth factor-β1, IL-6 and IL-8 were observed. Finally, an increase of the indoleamine 2,3-dioxygenase activity was found, possibly playing a key role in mediating these effects. CONCLUSIONS: MSCs exert potent immunomodulant effects on gliadin-specific T cells, which may be exploited for future therapeutic application in celiac disease.
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